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Abigail's story

6th June 2016

Psychology student, Abigail didn’t realise her sore throat and temperature were the start of her ordeal with meningitis

Abigail's story

Abigail, 19 from Newport contracted meningococcal septicaemia in March 2016. Here she describes her experience:

“I woke up on the Saturday before Easter with a sore throat - little did I know at the time that this was the start of meningitis. As the day progressed I developed a high temperature, cold hands and feet, shaking and aching limbs but at no point did my family or I link it to meningitis.

“In the morning, my symptoms had worsened and I’d developed a rash. My mum called the NHS helpline and they sent a first response paramedic, and within minutes the ambulance came and transported me to the Royal Gwent Hospital.

“Once at the hospital, I was moved to Intensive Care and had some lumbar punctures which took spinal fluid to try and diagnose the particular strain of meningitis.

I didn’t feel like somebody with meningitis

“At this point my mum and dad were allowed to see me and I noticed that my mum had been crying. I knew then that they had been told my diagnosis. I didn't feel like somebody with meningitis - I was talkative and smiling. I did feel a little rough, but nothing seriously wrong and all I wanted to do was sleep.

“Later that evening I was put into a coma as my condition had deteriorated rapidly. My blood pressure was dipping dangerously low, along with my oxygen levels, as my organs were being attacked by the bacteria.

“My blood was tested for the chance of organ failure, which was rising to about 80%. It was decided at this point that I needed to be sedated. While 'asleep' the Intensive Care consultant told my parents that it was touch and go, if I would make it through the night.

Slowly improving

“I was moved into a separate room, with life support machines doing all of the work and placed on a dialysis type machine, to clean my blood. Luckily, my condition was slowly improving. As the doctors decided to take me off the sedation, my body reacted very badly. I only found out later, that I was screaming and trying to rip out all of my tubes and was experiencing ICU Psychosis. On top of this I was suffering from photophobia, an extreme sensitivity to light, caused by the meningitis.

“This was a very frightening time for me and for my family. The worst 'dream' I suffered was that I had given birth at a carnival, and I was to be ‘sacrificed’. I would scream “have I died?” aloud and even had dreams about my own funeral as though I was an angel, seeing myself from above.

“I was visited many times by a psychiatrist, as I struggled a lot with these psychological effects. The photophobia made me 'blind' for a few days and as the light was too painful for my eyes, I wore an eye patch or sunglasses until it settled down. The hospital staff called me a superstar when I had my sunglasses on!

“In my nine days in hospital, I had lost nearly two stone in weight, which was almost all muscle. While in intensive care, I had become very weak and had to learn how to walk again. My skin was very fragile from the sepsis rash, with lots of blisters appearing but I was fortunate that I didn’t lose any limbs.

I have been very lucky

“Although there were lots of falls along the way, I’m glad to say that I can now walk again. I still struggle with bending and walking up stairs, but I have been very lucky considering what could have happened to me.

“Since leaving hospital recovery had been difficult as I'm am still very weak and fatigued. But I have returned to university in Birmingham and all being well, I will be sitting my exams in August. I understand now, how lucky I am to have survived, not to mention recovering with hardly any after effects. It just shows the quicker that you recognise the symptoms, the better the outcome.

“I would like to say, that I'm as healthy as I can be now, and stronger mentally than ever. The support I received from all my family, and also the dedication of my parents, has helped me the most with my recovery.”